It isn't often that an awards speech is so moving that it brings both men and women in the audience to their feet. Yet, in accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement during the 75th Golden Globes in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday night, media entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey did just that. She delivered such a moving, fire and brimstone speech that for many – including yours truly – it was the highlight of the nationally televised awards ceremony. It's certainly what everyone has been talking and tweeting about on social media over the past day.
Throughout the three-hour ceremony broadcast on NBC and hosted by late-night talk show personality Seth Meyers, it was encouraging to see the actors, writers, directors and others who walked the red carpet and later took the stage sharing important conversations and articulating a set of values that's been missing from our government leaders for the past year. There was plenty of talk about diversity and decency – and, of course, the #MeToo movement. If the power of women was on full display Sunday night – and it certainly was – then Oprah showed that without a doubt she was the most powerful woman in the Beverly Hilton ballroom on Sunday night.
"America is upside down and inside out," opined New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, writing about the Golden Globes ceremony. "There's meaningless make-believe in the capital of politics. There's meaningful politics in the capital of make-believe."
Thus, the appeal of what Ms. Winfrey said Sunday night – and the eloquence and immediacy of her voice in how she delivered her message – raised our collective consciousness about sexual abuse and harassment. She showed a fresh determination for all of us to rally around – something that's been sorely lacking in our current president. Bruni called Ms. Winfrey's address, "a glorious speech about how a yesterday of discrimination becomes a tomorrow of hope."
Bruni wrote: "One of the best routes, she noted, are role models. She recalled what it meant to her, when she was younger, to see Sidney Poitier receive Hollywood's highest accolades. And she wandered aloud what it might mean for little girls Sunday night to see her getting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment."
Veteran newsman Dan Rather, writing on his Facebook page Monday morning, said Ms. Winfrey's speech was "a bold and passionate call for hope, a rejection of the cynicism and darkness of the present."
Her words, Rather noted, "embodied the best traditions of American oratory. They rang with a moral clarity rooted in the march toward justice. They were not blind to the distance we have traveled as a nation and the distance yet to go. They were uplifting and inspiring, while recognizing that achieving progress will take work."
Among the many highlights of Ms. Winfrey's speech – and one which resonated with me – was when she spoke out about valuing freedom of the press.
"I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know the press is under siege these days. We also know it's the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies, I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I'm especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.
"But it's not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It's one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They're the women whose names we'll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they're in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They're part of the world of tech and politics and business. They're our athletes in the Olympics and they're our soldiers in the military."
Finally, Ms. Winfrey brought the Golden Globes audience to its feet when she said: "I want all of the girls watching here now to know, that a new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say 'me too' again."
On Sunday night, many of us saw Ms. Winfrey as Madame President. Not only a spiritual leader but a brilliant woman, who unlike our current president, came from nothing and built a billion-dollar empire. She is well respected and loved. Her nine-minute speech gave us hope – and, certainly, she encouraged all of us to be inspired and to stand up and be heard, and also to be inspired for social justice.
The Washington Post quoted actress Meryl Streep afterward saying that Ms. Winfrey "launched a rocket" with her speech. "I want her to run for president," Ms. Streep told The Post. "I don't think she had any intention (of declaring). But now she doesn't have a choice."
Certainly, it will be interesting to see if the seed planted by Ms. Winfrey's hopeful and inspiring speech grows into some bigger than anything we might imagine. Don't count out an Oprah for President possibility in 2020.
Photo: Courtesy of Google Images. Video: Courtesy of YouTube.com.